Biological Sciences

Treena Swanston

Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences
Assistant Professor, Anthropology
Discipline Coordinator, Anthropology

PhD (Saskatchewan)

7-368C, City Centre Campus
10700 – 104 Avenue
Edmonton, AB



Dr. Treena Swanston's interest in how human health issues are connected to both biological variation and cultural processes has been at the core of her research. Her past research involved the amplification and analysis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Helicobacter pylori DNA in tissues associated with the ancient Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi individual (‘Long Ago Person Found’), who was discovered in a melting glacier in British Columbia, on the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

Currently, Dr. Swanston is part of a research team identifying biological evidence of trace element uptake in bone as a way of revealing social determinants of health. By using synchrotron light at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) and at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) in Chicago, IL, the team is mapping trace elements, including lead, mercury and strontium in archaeological bone recovered from individuals who were interred in the Royal Naval Hospital Cemetery (1793-1822) in Antigua, West Indies. The spatial mapping of trace elements within bone is a valuable method because the high specificity of this imaging technique can identify and separate the elements that were taken in during life from the elements that are present as a result of diagenesis.

Available to supervise senior students' independent study.

Biological anthropology, anthropological genetics, bioarchaeology, paleopathology, synchrotron science

Teaching and Research Interests

Dr. Swanston plans to continue with biomedical research through the analysis of microbial genetic data and trace elements. Tuberculosis (TB), a disease of great antiquity, is still a complex and biocultural health issue for many individuals, especially if the cases include coinfection complications and multidrug resistance. She also plans to focus on bone copper, zinc and iron levels connected to immune system strategies related to TB.

Selected Publications / Presentations / Conference Papers

Swanston, T., Varney, T.L., Kozachuk, M., Choudhury, S., Bewer, B., Coulthard, I., et al. (2018). Franklin expedition lead exposure: New insights from high resolution confocal x-ray fluorescence imaging of skeletal microstructure. PLoS ONE, 13(8), e0202983.

Swanston, T., Varney, T., Coulthard, I., George, G.N., Pickering, I.J., Murphy, R., & Cooper, D.M.L. (2015). Synchrotron x-ray fluorescence imaging and spectroscopic evidence of biogenic mercury identified in a burial in Colonial Antigua. Journal of Archaeological Science, 58, 26-30.

Swanston, T., Varney, T., Coulthard, I., Feng, R., Bewer, B., Murphy, R., Hennig, C., & Cooper, D. (2012). Element localization in archaeological bone using synchrotron radiation x-ray fluorescence: Identification of biogenic uptake. Journal of Archaeological Science, 39, 2409-2413.

Swanston, T., Carter, Y., Hopkins, C., Walker, E.G., & Cooper, D. (2011). Developmental fusion of the Malleus and Incus in a late 19th-century case of aural atresia. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 23(5), 612-617.

Swanston, T., Haakensen, M., Deneer, H., & Walker, E.G. (2011). The characterization of Helicobacter pylori DNA associated with ancient human remains recovered from a Canadian glacier. PLoS ONE, 6(2), e16864. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016864


Awards / Grants / Fellowships

Insight Grant, co-applicant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (2014) 

Professional Associations / Memberships

  • Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology
  • American Association of Physical Anthropologists
  • Paleopathological Association
  • Society for Archaeological Sciences
  • American Association of Anthropological Genetics

Boards / Committees

  • Research Ethics Board, MacEwan University
  • Teaching, Research and Faculty Development Committee, Faculty of Arts & Science, MacEwan University 
  • Curriculum Committee, Department of Biological Sciences, MacEwan University